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COPING WITH COVID-19 · April 6th, 2020

PPE Shortages Spark Creative Solutions

With personal protective equipment (PPE) in short supply, local communities everywhere are working to ensure their human health workers have the supplies they need to fight COVID-19. And veterinary hospitals are doing their part. But as an essential service, protective gear remains a necessity for animal care professionals. To help offset shortages, hospitals across NVA are finding innovative ways to conserve and create PPE.

In Annapolis, Maryland, the team at Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic has found a way to safely substitute some necessary supplies. They’ve converted their conference room into a temporary sewing room.

“We enlisted several team members with sewing experience to pin and sew masks,” said Hospital Manager Rusty Owens. “People are eager to contribute to this project!”

As a 24-hour emergency and critical care facility, their need for PPE is especially crucial. “We plan to make about 600,” added Rusty. “We have about 100 employees just in the ER and 200 total when you include the specialists in our facility, so we’re making plenty of extras.”

AAVEC will use the new equipment for curbside pickups. But with supply limitations a real possibility, they may also work as substitutes for surgical masks.

AAVEC team members Stephanie Garcia and Marissa Luke sew masks and gowns for their team.

Value Pet Clinic in Kent, Washington, has also increased PPE conservation efforts. Like many NVA hospitals, they’ve followed AVMA’s guidance and postponed elective surgical procedures, like spays, neuters, and routine dental cleanings. “We are keeping a waitlist of patients that need these services and will call to schedule when we are back up to normal capacity,” said Hospital Manager Wendy Roberts. “Our clients have been supportive and very understanding.”

Still, their clinic remains open for urgent and crucial care, and masks and gowns are very much in need. “We have an amazing veterinary technician who is making masks for our entire staff,” Wendy added, indicating a collection of colorful masks, and one in particular with a notable pattern. “Seattle Seahawks! Best one yet!”

The team at Value Pet Clinic sports vibrant, protective masks created by one of their talented technicians.

With human hospitals struggling to find adequate equipment, too, many NVA hospitals are also stepping up to assist fellow caregivers in their local communities. Animal Specialty Center is one of them.

Just outside New York City, one the places hardest hit by the pandemic, the team answered a call for help from the medical director of a local human hospital, St. Joseph’s Medical Center. Animal Specialty Center provided St Joseph’s with three ventilators that will be used to support patients in the fight against COVID-19.

“Their dedicated team of doctors, nurses, and support staff are working tirelessly to care for the ever-rising number of patients and to overcome challenges faced with an unprecedented demand for precious resources,” said Angela Morgan, ASC’s Hospital Administrator. “As a member of the healthcare industry, we are proud to stand behind our human healthcare workers in any way we possibly can”.

In Yonkers, New York, ASC donates three mechanical ventilators to support human patients at Saint Joseph’s Medical Center.

At the same time, veterinary teams have also been the beneficiaries of local generosity. In Wesley Chapel, Florida, one local family sewed several CDC-approved masks and delivered them to their pets’ care staff at Quail Hollow Animal Hospital. “We truly appreciated it,” said Hospital Manager Lisa Calton. “We thank them for thinking about us and our safety.”

Staff at Quail Hollow Animal Hospital wears protective masks created by a client.

At Barclay Hills Animal Hospital in Oregon City, the team posted a photo on Facebook of their Technician Andrea wearing a mask as she prepared for curbside appointments. One of their followers saw the post, and the next day, drove by to drop off masks for the whole team. Northgate Small Animal Hospital in Collins, Illinois, also received a “safe care” package — hand sanitizer from a local distillery and custom masks hand-sewn by a local embroidery shop.

Veterinary Technician Carolyn displays hand sanitizer and a mask – gifts from Old Herald Brewery & Distillery and Sew Handmade, two local businesses lending a hand to Northgate Small Animal Hospital in Collins, Illinois.

Through it all, NVA’s procurement team is working diligently to prepare our community for the shortage as best they can. They surveyed local leaders to identify hospitals with the most urgent needs, and are working closely with our distribution partners to monitor future supply.

Meanwhile, NVA’s Medical Advisory Board provided guidance on how to conserve, reuse, and even create PPE to aid hospitals in extending their supply. (You can download that document on NVA Share here.) Of course, hospital leaders are encouraged to review AVMA guidelines, as they make their own decisions on how best to utilize protective equipment.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created so much uncertainty, one thing is for sure: the NVA community continues to prove how kind-hearted, innovative, and resilient it can be when faced with unforeseen challenges. The care clients are accustomed to continues unimpeded. Faces may be covered, but behind every mask is an unseen smile reflected in part by bright colors or whimsical patterns. The creativity is helping lift everyone’s spirits at a time when it’s needed most.

“Dr. Matheson’s wife made him the best mask!” added Barclay Hill’s Hospital Manager, Selene Rayl. On a star-studded black background, two lightsabers criss-cross behind an emblazoned Star Wars logo. “Nerds on staff are so jealous.”

The force is with Dr. Matheson from Barclay Hills Animal Clinic in Oregon City, Oregon.

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